Fleisher at his finest
Keenan A. Reesor | Los Angeles, CA | 02/25/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I extend my thanks to the first reviewer, who obviously possesses a very thorough understanding of the works presented on this Disc. I whole-heartedly agree with his comments on the fine playing of Nelson Freire, who truly is--unfortunately--one of Piano's greatest secrets. His sound is bright and clear--not in an obtrusive way, but, as always, in a refreshing way. His tempos--especially that of the G-flat Major Impromptu--are unique and very supple.However, I must disagree with his comments on Fleisher's playing. I have made it a point to be a student of Leon Fleisher's playing ever since I was first introduced to him via his recording of the Beethoven Concertos. This certainly is among the finest, if not the finest--and most consistent--recordings available. His artistry grew still further in my eyes upon hearing his recording of the Brahms Conertos. The list continues with Rachmaninov's Rhapsody, Liszt's B Minor Sonata, the Franck Symphonic Variations, Brahms' Handel Variations--all recordings of the highest caliber. I was especially excited upon receiving this recording, because it was when Fleisher was playing this very piece (the Wanderer Fantasy) that his hand conitioned worsened to the point of disability. I must say that nowhere in these perfomances is this noticeably. Quite on the contrary, this is a sample of his finest playing. The depth and warmth of his interpretation of both the Fantasy and the Sonata are stunningly beautiful--an artist at the height of his already indisputably marvelous career. It is perhaps arguable that Pollini's and Watts' technique is as comprehensive as Fleisher's, but there will NEVER be a question in my mind as to who the greater artist is. This will always be Leon Fleisher."
Fleisher Disappoints in Schubert; Freire Better
Michael A Pahre | Cambridge, MA | 05/20/2000
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Every pianist confronts the challenge of deciding whether Schubert should be played more classically or more like an early romantic; only in the Wanderer Fantasy must they additionally choose whether or not to emphasize its inherent virtuosity. This is not to say that most of Schubert's piano works aren't virtuosic: they are just not pianistic, thus hiding their difficulty to everyone but the performer himself. Schubert's long and singing melodies smoothly transition from section to section, making the pianist's challenges for successful phrasing even tougher.Pianist Leon Fleisher was much admired in the 1960s--particularly for his cycle of the Beethoven piano concertos, which remains among the best available--until a hand injury prevented him from performing two-hand works publicly for several decades. Sony has reissued here recordings of Schubert's Wanderer Fantasy and the A major sonata, D664. The former is suitably swift and clean, but with neither warmth nor aggression. Fleisher has clear command of the instrument, a good idea of how to pace this single movement work, and a pure tone. But the energy needed to sustain the piece through its many embellishments of the principal subject is lacking, letting down this listener in the grand climaxes. Recordings by Pollini and Watts of the Wanderer Fantasy are superior to this one and ought to be purchased instead; Pollini's recording is a particularly outstanding one (winning a Grand Pix du Disque upon its original LP release).The A major sonata is played perfunctorily albeit mostly gently. The andante is a beautiful little work which resembles a song without words. Unfortunately, Fleisher passes over it with little sign of connection or emotional response. In general, this performance is competent while never probing very deeply into the music. These recordings of Fleisher (1963) are surprisingly dry and lacking in depth of the bass.The disk is rounded out with a recording of the Four Impromptus, D899 by Brazilian pianist Nelson Freire. His name is unfamiliar to most piano lovers. While this performance won't change many minds about him, the playing shows more imagination and color than the drab playing of Fleisher. The first impromptu is carefully laid out, the 2nd beautifully virtuosic with a supple and smooth technique, but the 4th alternately a little bit under and over tempo (in a non-rubato manner!) in a nervous kind of way. While quite good, this performance of the impromptus lacks both the gentle poetry of Schiff or the impestuous virtuosity of Richter. (Two stars for Fleisher and Four for Freire average to three for the disk.)"
5 Stars to Fleisher
Scriabinmahler | UK | 02/20/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
It's interesting the same recording leaves so different impressions on reviers. Mine is totally opposite to the reviewers above.
Fleisher plays Wanderer in dangerously brisk tempo with amazing dexterity and verve combined with fine artistry. Sonata D664 is even better. His playing is never sentimental neither mere display of technical brilliance, but one's attention is always drawn to the music itself rather than to pianist, even though he's got abundance of technical prowess.
Freire is the direct opposite to Fleisher. He plays impromtus with breath-taking virtuosity and delicacy, but that's all there is. A typical virtuoso pianist, but not an artist like Fleisher. G-flat Major Imprompto is the worst rendition I've ever come across. Too fast and business-like, he completely fails to capture the etherial beauty and the sense of bright sorrow inherent to this divine music."